The South Korean and Japanese militaries said North Korea launched a suspected ballistic missile into the sea on Wednesday, the first such launch in nearly two months and a signal that Pyongyang isn’t interested in resuming denuclearization talks anytime soon, preferring to focus on bolstering its weapons arsenal.
At a high-profile governing party session last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pledged to further strengthen his military power without divulging any new policy toward the United States or South Korea.
North Korea fired a suspected ballistic missile into South Korea’s eastern seas on Wednesday morning, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It stated that intelligence agencies in South Korea and the United States were attempting to examine more information about the launch.
Members of South Korea’s presidential national security team voiced alarm over the launch in an emergency video conference, according to the presidential Blue House, and said restarting dialogue with North Korea is critical to resolving tensions.
The North Korean launch was also spotted by the Japanese Defense Ministry, which said the nation most certainly shot a missile.
“We find it deeply regretful that North Korea has continued to fire missiles since last year,” Fumio Kishida, Japan’s prime minister, told reporters.
Other specifics concerning the North Korean launch, like as where the alleged missile landed and whether there was any damage, were not immediately known, according to Kishida. He said he had asked officials to check the safety of ships and planes in the region where the suspected missile was believed to have flown and crashed.
North Korea conducted a series of weapons tests between September and November in what observers saw as an attempt to put greater pressure on its adversaries to acknowledge it as a nuclear power state in exchange for respite from economic restrictions. A submarine-launched ballistic missile and a prototype hypersonic missile were among the weapons tested. North Korea has stopped testing since their artillery fire drills in early November, until Wednesday’s launch.
The Biden administration has stated repeatedly that it is willing to resume nuclear dialogue with North Korea “anywhere and at any time” with no strings attached. So far, the North has refused such offers, claiming that US enmity remained unaltered.
In his New Year’s speech on Tuesday, outgoing South Korean President Moon Jae-in said he will continue to seek methods to repair ties with North Korea and support peace on the Korean Peninsula until the end of his single five-year term in May. As a method to ease animosities, he has recently advocated for a political, symbolic proclamation to end the 1950-53 Korean War.
The US-led diplomatic effort to persuade North Korea to relinquish its nuclear program faltered in 2019 owing to disagreements over how much sanctions relief the North should receive in exchange for destroying its main nuclear facility, a modest step toward disarmament. Since then, Kim has promised to expand his nuclear arsenal, despite the fact that his country’s economy has experienced significant losses as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, ongoing US-led sanctions, and his own mismanagement.
“Rather than indicating interest in disarmament discussions or an end-of-war declaration, North Korea is warning that neither the omicron variant nor internal food shortages would deter its aggressive missile development,” said Ewha University’s Leif-Eric Easley.
North Korea may have launched the hypersonic missile or a nuclear-capable KN-23 missile with a highly maneuverable and lower-trajectory flight, according to Kim Dong-yub, a professor at Seoul’s University of North Korean Studies. He predicted that North Korea will proceed with its weapons buildup ambitions.
Kim reiterated his pledges to strengthen his country’s military might during last week’s plenary meeting of the governing Workers’ Party’s Central Committee, ordering the construction of more powerful, advanced weapons systems. North Korea laid forward “tactical instructions” for its foreign ties, especially with South Korea, according to state media sources, but did not specify. The United States was not mentioned in the reports.
Kim celebrated ten years in power last month. Since taking power when his father and longtime dictator Kim Jong Il died in December 2011, Kim Jong Un has consolidated absolute power at home and performed an abnormally large number of weapons tests as part of attempts to develop nuclear-tipped missiles capable of hitting the United States mainland.
According to South Korean and US estimates, North Korea has conducted 62 rounds of ballistic missile tests under Kim’s 10-year leadership, compared to nine rounds during his grandfather and state founder Kim Il Sung’s 46-year rule and 22 rounds during Kim Jong Il’s 17-year administration. Kim Jong Un was in charge of four of North Korea’s six nuclear tests and three intercontinental ballistic missile launches.